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Israel faces growing diplomatic pressure, Ukraine makes a diplomatic push, and artificial intelligen͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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May 28, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Israel’s growing isolation
  2. West worried about Iran
  3. How AI forces retraining
  4. Ukraine’s diplomatic push
  5. Trump trial nears end
  6. The ANC’s splashy pledges
  7. Mexico’s female inequality
  8. China bans influencers
  9. Nadal’s French farewell
  10. India’s chess celebrities

Texting with a former Chinese army colonel, and a lost Caravaggio goes on public display for the first time.


Pressure on Israel grows

Abir Sultan/Reuters

Global diplomatic pressure on Israel intensified over its offensive on the Gazan town of Rafah. Three European countries were today due to formally recognize a Palestinian state, the UN Security Council is set to debate Israel’s strike against a Rafah displaced-persons camp, and Israeli ties with Cairo have plummeted over the death of an Egyptian soldier along the Gaza border. In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers held what Dublin described as “significant” talks on sanctioning Israel if it didn’t comply with international law, while Qatar said the recent Gaza strike — which Israel claimed targeted Hamas operatives then later admitted was a “tragic mishap” that killed at least 45 people — could complicate ceasefire and hostage-release talks with the militant group.


US tries to avoid Iran confrontation

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant. Morteza Nikoubazl/Getty.

The US is reportedly pressing European allies to hold off censuring Iran over its nuclear program, even as a new report showed Tehran had grown its stockpile of near-weapons grade uranium. According to The Wall Street Journal, the move by Washington is designed to lower tensions with Iran, which the US fears could be more unpredictable following the death of its president in a helicopter crash this month. But concerns are growing over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, which the Islamic Republic has insisted are solely peaceful: A new report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, seen by the Associated Press, showed Iran had significantly increased the amount of highly enriched uranium at its disposal.


AI’s impact on labor

Aly Song/Reuters

The growing importance of artificial intelligence is warping the labor market in the tech sector and beyond. Demand for specific technical skills or experience working with large language models far outstrips supplies of engineers with that profile, leaving many — including tens of thousands laid off in recent years — furiously retraining, such as by paying for a $6,800 two-week bootcamp, The Wall Street Journal said. “You’re probably not going to get replaced by AI,” the bootcamp’s founder said. “You’re going to be replaced by someone who knows AI and does your job.” Some companies are incorporating AI training in-house: JPMorgan’s asset- and wealth-management unit will from this year require all new staff to undertake prompt engineering training.


Zelenskyy expands security pacts

Kenzo Tribouillard/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to build up a network of European security agreements on a tour of the region, while NATO’s leader pressed for the alliance to free up Kyiv to use materiel from allies to strike Russian territory. The twin efforts showcased renewed urgency in aiding Ukraine against a persistent Russian ground offensive: Zelenskyy’s government has complained its forces are hamstrung in their ability to make the most of military supplies by restrictions from donor countries, with European debates over the issue mirroring disagreement within the White House. When it comes to its home-built supplies, however, Kyiv faces no such curbs: A Ukrainian drone reportedly struck more than 1,100 miles inside Russian territory this weekend.


Trump hush-money trial closes

Justin Lane/Reuters

Donald Trump’s hush-money criminal trial wraps up this week, a case that has taken on outsized importance in the presidential campaign as other prosecutions against the former president face delays. One Trump-era White House attorney told our colleagues at Principals that he thought jurors would reach a guilty verdict. Trump will likely parade an acquittal or hung jury, though The New York Times predicted that regardless of the outcome he would respond with anger and vengeance. Biden campaign aides meanwhile told The Wall Street Journal that they view Trump’s full return to the campaign trail, curtailed by his court appearances, to be of benefit to them because it would remind undecided voters about Trump’s more extreme rhetoric.

For more on the Trump trials and the presidential campaign, subscribe to our daily US politics newsletter. →


ANC makes final election pledges

South Africa’s ruling party has pledged billions of dollars worth of benefits in a bid to bolster fledgling support ahead of tomorrow’s election. According to experts, the proposals could further kneecap the country’s economy. Among the promises are a universal health insurance program — funding which would require value-added tax to increase from 15% to over 21% — and a basic income for the unemployed. As unemployment rates sit above 30%, with youth unemployment figures roughly double that, the pledges could destabilize the South African economy, analysts warned. The African National Congress’ mismanagement of the economy means it is likely to get the smallest share of the vote since the end of white-majority rule three decades ago.

For more on the South African election, subscribe to our thrice-weekly Africa newsletter. →


Mexico awaits first woman president

Voters are set to elect Mexico’s first woman president on Sunday, a milestone moment in a country where women only gained the right to vote in 1953. Progress has been unequal, however: Around 2.5 million women in Mexico are domestic workers, a largely unregulated industry where abuse remains rampant, with experts equating it to “modern slavery.” In 2023, just 47% of women were active in the formal labor force, compared to 76% of men, highlighting soaring rates of inequality in Mexico, where the wealthiest 10% make roughly 30 times more than the poorest half of the population, according to the World Inequality Report.

For more on the world’s most interesting and important elections, check out Semafor’s Global Election Hub. →

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China censors conspicuous wealth

Chinese social media censors banned several influencers as part of a campaign to curb ostentatious displays of wealth. Among the ostracized influencers was Wang Hongquanxing — nicknamed China’s Kim Kardashian — who once boasted that he never left home in jewelry and clothes worth less than $1.4 million. The ban comes with Beijing seeking to redress soaring rates of inequality: While the GDP per capita in China’s poorer central and western regions sits between $6,000-$8,000 a year, the average resident of much richer coastal provinces can make several times that.


Nadal’s potential French farewell

Yves Herman/Reuters

Rafael Nadal lost what may have been his final match at the French Open, a tournament he long dominated. The 37-year-old entered the first round showdown at a remarkable juncture in his career, holding a 115-3 record at Roland Garros with 14 titles and yet playing as an unseeded underdog given a string of poor results. He ultimately lost to Alexander Zverev, the fourth-ranked player in the world, and the presence of other tennis greats such as Novak Djokovic in the sellout crowd pointed to the significance of the moment. “For so long, his success in Paris seemed so inevitable,” The Guardian’s sports writer noted. “Now it may be over.”


India’s chess celebrities

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. Andrzej Iwanczuk Nur Photo via Reuters.

Two Indian siblings have stolen the show at one of chess’ most high-profile tournaments on the home ground of arguably the sport’s greatest-ever player, Magnus Carlsen. Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 18, and his 22-year-old sister Vaishali have, according to The Indian Express, been “chased by autograph hunters and selfie seekers” at Norway Chess, a tournament dubbed by Garry Kasparov as the Wimbledon of the sport. The pair are the first brother-sister duo to both become grandmasters, and Praggnanandhaa in particular is widely seen as one of the principal challengers to Carlsen’s dominance. Praggnanandhaa, Carlsen, and the US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura led the men’s tournament after its first day, though Vaishali suffered an early defeat at the hands of a Chinese rival.

  • The United Arab Emirates president arrives in Seoul for a two-day state visit.
  • The African Development Bank holds its annual meetings in the Kenyan capital.
  • In These Streets, a new book about the surge in gun violence in the US, is published.
One Good Text

Zhou Bo is a former Senior Colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army, and now an academic at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. He recently expanded on these views in a piece for Foreign Affairs.

Museo Nacional del Prado

A rediscovered Caravaggio painting goes on public display for the first time in Madrid today. Ecce Homo, depicting Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns, was almost auctioned off in 2021, when it was misattributed to another painter. But experts at the Prado Museum stepped in to investigate suspicions, later confirmed, that it was an original from the Italian Baroque artist. The oil painting, available to view until October, “showcases hallmarks of the old master’s style,” Smithsonian Magazine noted, “such as a dramatic contrast of light and shadow, dark realism and an intense charge of emotion on the figure’s faces.

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